Roll Player on Kickstarter

Ladies and Gentlemen. Yesterday marked the launch of a game on Kickstarter called Roll Player. Designed and published by Keith Matejka of Thunderworks games this one is definitely one to check out!


Disclaimer: I don’t usually promote Kickstarter projects. When I do it’s because I have personally played the game and I enjoy it enough to endorse it. In nearly all cases I also endorse it because I know the designer or publisher. I never accept payment for my endorsements. 

Introducing Roll Player

To learn more instead of reading the rest of this article please follow any of these links:

And if you’re still reading, then let me offer up a brief preview/review of the game to give you a feel for what you can expect.

Let’s Get Rollin’!

In a game of Roll Player each player chooses a race (Elf, Halfling, Dwarf, and Human). Each player is also given a class card, backstory card, and alignment card. Each of these cards allows you to play differently than the other players.

The objective of the game is to turn your character into the greatest fantasy adventurer. To do that they will seek to improve their characters by drafting dice, purchasing weapons and armor, learning skills and gaining traits.

Players win the game by having the most reputation, which is achieved by creating the perfect character. This includes utilizing the right dice in the right locations, having the correct alignment on your alignment card, earning bonus points with your traits, skills, armor, and weapons, and generally being an awesome adventurer.

How to Play

At the start of each round a player will draw dice from the bag and roll them. This is the ROLL PHASE. After rolling the dice they will be put in order from lowest to highest on the initiative cards. Then that player will choose one of the dice and take the associated initiative card, which determines their player order during the market phase to come. That player will place the die into one of the character attributes on their player mat. This is the DICE PHASE. These attributes include strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. They can then perform the ability of the attribute they chose.

Each attribute has a different ability. Strength allows you to flip one of your dice to the opposite side. Dexterity allows you to swap any two dice. Constitution allows you to bump the value of a die up or down by 1. Intelligence allows you to re-roll any one die. Wisdom allows you to modify your alignment on your alignment card. Charisma allows you to use a Charisma token and get money.

Elf character player board.

Elf character player board.

Then in turn order players will purchase a card from the Market. These cards include skills, traits, weapons, and armor. This is the MARKET PHASE. Players will then apply their new card to their characters. Some cards serve as points to be counted at the end of the game. Some cards provide abilities for their character. But all serve to improve their overall character.

Once all players have equipped these new cards then you move on to the CLEANUP PHASE. This is where the initiative cards are returned, the dice bag passes to the next player, and new equipment cards are drawn.

What makes Roll Player special?

A lot of people are familiar with fantasy and with role playing. What this game brings is a great way of building a fantasy character within a Euro game style. The dice drafting and allocation onto your character combined with each of the characteristics to manipulate previously placed dice makes this a unique, low luck strategy game worth checking out.

Roll Player components on display at Gamehole Con in Madison.

Roll Player prototype components on display at Gamehole Con in Madison.

I really enjoyed the aspect of choosing the right dice to help me accomplish what I wanted for my character. There is a nice balance of trying to choose turn order for the Market Phase versus choosing the die you want/need.

Also, the artwork is bold and beautiful and really drew me in. I think the artist and graphic designer really did a great job and created a product that will look amazing on your gaming table.

Keith Matejka and Thunderworks Games really have a winner here. Go back it today!

GameHole Con 2015 in Madison

Ladies and gentlemen. It is time for the 3rd Gamehole Con! Taking place this weekend in Madison, WI, Gamehole Con is in it’s third year and has moved to a larger venue. It is located at the Exhibition Hall of the Alliant Energy Center. Here’s some info from their website that I’ve copied and pasted here:

Gamehole Con is the largest tabletop gaming convention in the upper Midwest.

Tabletop gamers from around the country gather each November in Madison, WI for this carnival of gaming. Gamehole Con is all about tabletop gaming and all the fun that goes with it. The convention features role-playing games, board games, fantasy and historical miniature gaming, and collectible card games. Gamehole Con is for the fantasy and adventure tabletop gaming enthusiast. Gamehole Con features the best guests in the industry, an unbelievable Dealer Hall and of course, lots and lots of gaming! If you are a tabletop gaming fan, do not miss Gamehole Con!

What is a Gamehole?

I’ll leave it to the Gamehole Con team to explain. Visit this link or read their explanation:

Now, you may find yourself asking, “What is a Gamehole?” or saying to yourself, “Ew. A Gamehole sounds yucky.” Well ladies and gentlemen; a Gamehole is simply a hole for gaming. It is a nod to the author that single-handedly created the genre of modern fantasy literature and thereby fantasy gaming – J.R.R. Tolkien.

As Tolkien so beautifully wrote at the very start of the transcendent Hobbit: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

A Gamehole is a hole for gaming. Instead of Hobbits, it is filled with gamers, gaming, food, fellowship and fun. More specifically, the Gamehole is a longstanding group of Madison area gamers. We have been getting together for years playing our favorite games. We love virtually all tabletop games.

Why I’m Attending

I will be attending as a Game Master (GM). This year I have the great privilege to be running demos of my game, Scoville. I have seven demo sessions between Friday and Saturday. I’m really looking forward to meeting some great gamers and introducing them to Scoville.

If you are attending, come find my table and introduce yourself! It would be great to meet a bunch of you.

What does Gamehole Con Offer?

Gamehole Con offers an exhibitor hall with booths of game companies selling their games, fantasy RPG companies selling their wares, and more geeky goodness. The con also has a large gaming area with many GMs running games. Games are available the entire weekend! You can see what’s available on this listing.

The Con also has another embedded con called Crafter Con. This is hosted by The Game Crafter,  print-on-demand service for gamers and game designers. They are a local business who have a great product. If you are a game designer, stop by the Crafter Con stuff and enjoy a good time.

There is also a great lineup of guests and artists being featured at Gamehole Con.

Overall it will be a great weekend of gaming and I recommend you stop by and check it out!

International Spieltage 2015 AKA “Essen”

The logo could use some graphic designer assistance.

Tomorrow marks the start of the International Spieltage in Essen, Germany. It is the grandest of board game exhibitions in the world*. While I won’t be attending I thought I would share some things to pay attention to or look forward to regarding the convention. To learn more check out the official website:

*Some may argue that Gen Con is the grandest and I would not fault them for that.

For the remainder of this article I will refer to the convention as “Spiel.” There are hundreds of games that are released at Spiel and the awesome, talented, and overworked W. Eric Martin of BGG (Board Game Geek) News has been compiling a list of those games ever since Gen Con concluded. You can find that list here:

I want to point out a few titles that look intriguing to me, but I’ll get to that in a moment. One of the highlights of Spiel, as a non-attender, is watching the BGG live feed. Game designers and publishers sit down with someone from BGG and explain or teach or describe their games. This is always such a great thing because it allows us to learn about the game in great detail. I’ll update this article tomorrow with a link to the live feed, otherwise you should be able to find it on the BGG website.

UPDATE: Here is the LINK to the live feed.

Use this link to see the schedule of games they will be covering.

Games of Interest

If I were attending Spiel I would be interested in these games. For the sake of my bank account it is a good thing I’m not attending, as this is a pretty long list. This list is in my order of interest with the most interesting being the first two and then decreasing interest as the list goes on.

Rome: City of Marble

Rome: City of Marble is a must-buy for me. I am personal friends with the designer, Brett Myers, and I had the privilege of playing this prototype. I couldn’t be happier for this game to come to market via R&R Games. It is a solid mid-weight Euro style game that is easy to teach and play. I can’t wait to get a final copy on the table!

The hook with this game is how players use tiles to create different type of buildings. I’ve never seen such an awesome use of Rhombuses in a game before!

Gold West

Gold West is also a must-buy for me (which I will likely do since it has been released here in the US). I am also friends with the designer, J. Alex Kevern, and had the privilege of playing this prototype. It is also a Euro-style game. This game, by Tasty Minstrel Games, utilizes a fresh twist on the Mancala mechanic where you drop resources in bins and get to use all the leftover resources for your actions.

There is a great amount of strategic planning to be done with the options available to you. Planning your moves with your resource bins is a lot of fun!

Dice City: (BGG link) This game looks intriguing as it allows players to upgrade their dice throughout the game and increase their options. Check out the great Designer Diary.

Karuba: (BGG link) I love when a game offers the same information to players and allows them to use it differently. Karuba does just that. Plus, this game looks light enough to be able to get it to the table quite a bit.

Taverna: (BGG link) The artwork on this game looks amazing. The colors really pop and it is vibrant. I am a sucker for good artwork. That said, there are a few cards with some scary or revealing images. Overall, though, this looks like it could be a fun worker placement game.

Grand Austria Hotel: (BGG link) I love Euro style games and this one seems to fit that mold, especially since it has artwork by Klemenz Franz. There isn’t yet that much information available for the game but I’m intrigued none-the-less.

Burano: (BGG link) This looks like another good Euro-style game. It has some cool color mechanics and the board art is visually stunning.

Istanbul: Mocha & Baksheesh Expansion: (BGG link) I love the base game of Istanbul. This expansion looks like it will add quite a bit to the gameplay while perhaps relaxing some of the interaction on the board.

The Prodigals Club: (BGG link) I love Last Will. It’s probably in my Top 10 games. This game, while a stand-alone game, is designed within the Last Will theme and can be integrated with Last Will. I’m looking forward to trying this one.

Nippon: (BGG link) By What’s Your Game, this looks like an excellent and deep Euro-style game.

Signorie: (BGG link) Also by What’s Your Game, this looks like yet another excellent and deep Euro-style game.

Side note: If you enjoy Euro-style games you should probably pay attention to the games that What’s Your Game is coming out with. I previously owned Zhanguo and I am wishing I hadn’t traded it away.

Trickerion: Legends of Illusion: (BGG link) I wish I had backed the Kickstarter for this. I love the magic theme and the way it’s integrated into the game. It sounds like it takes a while to play, but I think it’s probably a lot of fun.

Camel Up: Supercup Expansion: (BGG link) I love Camel Up. It is easy to teach, quick to play, and so chaotic that it leads to crazy moments of fun. This expansion looks like it adds quite a bit to the awesomeness in the game by offering more betting opportunities and more chances for camels to mix it up.

Hengist: (BGG link) I love games by Uwe Rosenberg and I own both the Agricola and Le Havre two player games, so I’m looking forward to this one as well. Plus, there’s a dragonship!

Liguria: (BGG link) I like the game Fresco and this is a prequel to Fresco so I’m hoping for good things from it. Russian

Favor of the Pharoah: (BGG link) Despite the uninspiring artwork of Bezier Games, the games themselves are a lot of fun. I expect the same from this Tom Lehmann game from Bezier.

Russian Railroads: German Railroads Expansion: (BGG link) Russian Railroads is a fantastic game. It’s kind of long so it doesn’t hit the table very often. But it’s so good, so I’m definitely interested in this expansion.

Quartz: (BGG link) I really like the artwork and theme of this one so I’m interested in seeing more about it.

Ticket to Ride Expansion #5: United Kingdom & Pennsylvania: (BGG link) Whether you are a completionist, a train fanatic, or just like the Ticket to Ride series of games, you’ll probably wanna pick this one up.

That’s list “short” list of interesting games that are available at Spiel 2015. What games are you most looking forward to?

What’s Your Hook?

I read an article online a while back that the “upcoming” fifth Indiana Jones movie still has no MacGuffin. At first I thought, “What in the world is a MacGuffin?” Then I realized that I knew what it was but hadn’t heard that term before. From Wikipedia:

In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation.

This got me thinking about an analog in board games. While it’s not exactly the same in terms of purpose I think the closest analog in board games is the hook.

In my article, “How to (Speed) Pitch Your Game,” I characterized the hook in a few different ways. The hook refers to the thing that’s different than any other game.

  • Are you utilizing components in a new way?
  • Are you using a new mechanic?
  • Are you modifying an old mechanic in a new way?
  • Is your theme so amazing?

The hook should be a driving factor of your game. It should be the thing that’s constantly manipulating player’s decisions. It should exist to create moments of tension and reward. Like a MacGuffin, the hook is something that may not be the main plot, but it’s always there steering the narrative along.

When I designed Scoville I didn’t think there was a hook. Then I actually played it. The hook of Scoville is the great interaction within the field and the way cross-breeding opportunities open up throughout the game, and get blocked by other players. The important thing about this is that the hook wasn’t something that was apparent until I actually playtested the game.

So I’ve been trying to keep this hook concept in my mind while designing other games. My current game, Ziggurat, has a visual hook in that the ziggurat actually gets built as a 3D building during the game. But I don’t think that’s a big enough hook. While it looks appealing it’s too superficial. The game needs a bigger hook.

In my article, “My Board Game Design Philosophy,” I mentioned five things that I keep in mind while designing. These included that the game is quick to teach/learn, has few “exception” rules, a limited decision tree, a natural buildup or progression, and that players should be rewarded. I think I need (want) to add a “Hook” to that philosophy.

Playing Hookie

I checked out some of the popular games to see what their hooks were. Here are a few that I came up with:

Agricola/Caverna: The hook is how worker placement is utilized and optimized during the game. In each of these the difficult decisions are when there are several options that seem appealing but you know you won’t likely get both of them. Other players may choose one you wanted. So when it is your turn you have to try and make the best choice with your worker. (Plus Questing, i.e., upgrading your workers, is really awesome in Caverna).

Puerto Rico: The hook is not simply due to role selection, but that the selector gets a benefit. This is similar to the role selection in Race for the Galaxy.

Power Grid: The hook here is that you are racing toward creating the network and it offers a first-come-first-served mechanic of controlling the cities. When a player chooses to build more cities it is both good (More money) and bad (Worse turn order). That’s what gives Power Grid it’s hook.

Tzolk’in: The obvious hook here is the gear system for controlling the game as a time-based worker placement game.

Dominion: As the “father of deckbuilders” the hook is pretty obvious. At the time it was released the idea of deck building was novel and new. The hook is that players diverge in their capabilities each game depending on what they purchase.

Ora et Labora/Glass Road: Yes, more Rosenberg on this list. The hooks here are the resource board wheels that show what resources are available.

Alchemists: The hook is that you can use the digital app to help you mix potions. It makes for fun moments in the game where you aren’t always certain what result you will obtain.

You may disagree with these hooks, but you can’t argue that these help set the game apart from others.

What’s your Hook?

Are you designing games? Have you considered what makes your game special? I urge you to keep a focus on the hook of your game. Keep it in mind when designing. Keep it in mind when playtesting. See what your playtesters think makes the game special. Does that feedback match your hook?

The thing that brought this all up was that I changed a major mechanic of Ziggurat. When I was working on the design I realized that this change would have a dramatic positive effect on the interaction of the game. I wasn’t expecting that. Changing the mechanic basically added a hook to Ziggurat in that now players have the chance to essentially steal opportunities from other players. I can’t wait to get it to the table.

Scoville: Labs Now on Kickstarter!

The first expansion for Scoville is now live on Kickstarter! For $20 you can get the expansion. For $60 you can get the game and the expansion! But hurry, this campaign is only for 10 days and ends on August 21st!

The following information is from the Kickstarter campaign page

What’s In The Box?

Scoville Labs is an expansion for Scoville. [the base game is required for play.]  In the box you will find:

  • 6 Player Labs for private pepper research.
  • 9 Market Orders.
  • 9 Recipes.
  • Pepper Multiplier tokens.
  • 6 More “Plant 1 Extra Pepper” tokens.
  • 5 Phantom Peppers.
  • 5 each Green, Orange, and Purple Peppers.
  • 5 each Black, Brown, and White Peppers.
  • 1 Rule Book

And there are stretch goals, so when the project receives enough funding then we’ll get more awesome stuff in the box! Go check out the campaign to learn more about the stretch goals.

What Makes It Special?

The laboratory workbench for the blue player.

The laboratory workbench for the blue player.

Scoville: Labs is great because it gives players something they lacked in the base game: Control. Now that the competitors in the Scoville Chili Festival are allowed to do their own research they’ve all installed their own lab. The lab allows a player to plant and cross-breed peppers outside of the influence of other players. Now they can have more control over some of the peppers they will receive, and when they will receive them.

Using the 3 x 3 pepper lab players may plant a pepper in one of the pots each round. In subsequent rounds whenever a new pepper is planted it will immediately cross breed with the peppers directly adjacent to it. No one can mess with your lab, which means you have control over what you want to harvest from your lab.

I really like how the simple 3 x 3 personal lab can modify the game in such a fun and exciting way. I’m looking forward to seeing what you all think of it.

Plus, the expansion comes with more of those awesome peppers! So go check it out today! I’d love your support.

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